By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer
As Baylor freshmen begin their unique academic journeys on campus, there’s one class they can all relate to — Chapel.
Chapel is a long-standing tradition at Baylor, and it is a chance for students to come together in Waco Hall to listen to guest speakers and grow in their faith. Ryan Richardson, associate chaplain and director for Chapel, said Chapel carries a Christian message, but welcomes students of other faiths and includes speakers from various cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
“Chapel is the oldest tradition in American higher education,” the Spiritual Life website says. “Chapel provides an opportunity for students and faculty to hear from people who excel at what they do as an expression of their commitment to Christ.”
Richardson (often known as “Chapel Ryan”) has been involved in planning and coordinating Chapel for fifteen years. He said he looks forward to upcoming speakers this semester — particularly gospel singer Jonathan McReynolds, who will be on campus Monday.
“He’s huge right now in that genre of music,” Richardson said. “For those who are not as familiar with gospel, they’ll be exposed to the best that there is right now.”
Other noteworthy speakers and performances this semester include the Baylor department of theatre arts giving excerpts from their upcoming musical Godspell on Sept. 29, and Vanessa Albanez and Briseida Cruz Mirón who will speak about their experience with Habitat for Humanity in El Salvador on Nov. 12.
Richardson said that if even one person is impacted or transformed by a Chapel experience then it was a success.
“I don’t expect students to remember or be transformed by every Chapel,” Richardson said. “My mom would always make good dinners for me, and I don’t remember every dinner she made, but I remember she cared enough to make good dinners and that everyone was healthy — that’s what I hope Chapel does.”
Richardson sees the value in Chapel as an expression of how much Baylor cares for the well-being and faith of its students.
“I’m hoping students walk out of there and go ‘Baylor cared for me, and they cared to put something meaningful in my life’,” Richardson said. “We care that students are formed in an intentional way.”
Another important purpose of Chapel is to inspire students to become like Christ in their daily lives.
“I want students to use the experience they have at Chapel and Baylor to be good news to the world,” Richardson said. “I want students to go care for the poor and feed people that are hungry because those are the words of Jesus.”
Bee Cave freshman Anna Tabet looks forward to embracing the opportunity to hear interesting speakers this semester.
“I think I’m most excited about hearing more guest speakers because they each have such a unique story and past within Baylor and the Waco community,” Tabet said. “I think at times a lot of students are sheltered from the harsh truth of our community and its economic downfalls. So, having speakers shed some light on that truth is eye-opening for many.”
Tabet also sees Chapel as a unique college experience and appreciates its value as a Baylor tradition.
“I think Baylor Chapel is unique because it allows students to strengthen a major part of their lives — their faith,” Tabet said. “When students think of college, they think of building their academic or social portfolios and fail to grasp the importance of expanding your knowledge within your faith.”
Richardson advises students to relax and be fully receptive during Chapel this semester.
“You can leave Chapel disgruntled or refreshed,” Richardson said. “Take a deep breath and just receive — just come and be present.”